For the Dassault Rafale combat jet, the French intervention in Mali provided another chance to demonstrate its multirole capability. Starting with a 3,400-mile interdiction mission (AI) launched from France on the night of January 13, up to six aircraft subsequently flew daily from their deployed base at N’Djamena, Chad, also performing reconnaissance and close-air-support (CAS) missions. Six of them are still there.
The laser-guided version of the Sagem AASM (armament air-sol modulaire) air-launched “smart” weapon was qualified last month by the French air armaments agency (DGA) at the Cazaux flight-test center, and will soon enter service in France with operational squadrons of Rafale combat aircraft. It is intended primarily for use against mobile targets. Meanwhile, the French air force has revealed details of recent attack missions over Mali when up to 12 INS/GPS-guided versions of the AASM were salvo-fired within one minute against preplanned targets, to achieve maximum surprise.
In an interview ahead of the Dubai Air Show, Philippe Petitcolin, Safran’s president for defense and security and CEO of the French company’s subsidiary Sagem, said the company’s (Stand W325) defense and security businesses are thriving, especially in smart weapons and threat detection at airports, and it sees
France’s Sagem announced that the infrared-guided version of its Armement Air-Sol Modulaire (AASM, also known as Hammer) has been fielded by both the French air force and navy, and that it has been used operationally over Libya.
One of the most important weapons development programs here in France is the INS/GPS+laser-guided variant of Sagem’s AASM (armement air-sol modulaire in French, now also known by its NATO name of SBU-38 Hammer). The AASM has been achieving good success in its INS/GPS- and INS/GPS+IR-guided versions, and the laser version will provide the significant ability to hit moving targets.
Announced last week was the first successful test of the 250-kilogram laser-guided version of Sagem’s AASM modular weapon. The laser AASM was launched from a Rafale and hit a target at the Biscarrosse range 25 kilometers away. AASM versions already qualified are the basic inertial/GPS guided bomb, and a version that adds imaging infrared.
Four Rafale fighters from the French Air Force have completed a month-long deployment to the U.S., where they conducted a squadron exchange at Luke AFB and then took part in a Red Flag exercise at Nellis AFB. According to Dassault, no shootdowns were scored against the Rafale during the 10-day exercise, and American observers were particularly impressed with the accuracy of the fighter’s Sagem AASM “smart” bombs.
Last week Sagem successfully conducted the third and final qualification test firing of its “one-meter” class armament air-sol modulaire (AASM) modular air-to-ground weapon. The earlier “ten-meter” class AASM, with GPS guidance, has been used in Afghanistan by Rafale fighters. The one-meter weapon adds imaging infrared guidance for greater accuracy.
With one carrier-borne squadron already operational, deliveries to the French air force well under way, an impressive range of weapons already qualified and significant upgrades now funded, the Rafale program comes to the 2005 Paris Air Show in very good shape. Together with partners Snecma and Thales, Dassault has produced another warplane that is the pride of all France.